THE Irish government yesterday announced its annual budget with a package of £1 billion-plus ready to be used in the event of a No-Deal Brexit.

Minister for finance Pascal Donohoe told the Dail that he was allocating €1.2bn – approximately £1bn as the pound fluctuated against the euro all day – to deal with the No-Deal Brexit which looks increasingly likely.

Donohoe said: “This is a budget that has been developed in the shadow of Brexit. And the context for Brexit has now shifted to No Deal as our central assumption.

“This does not mean that No Deal is inevitable. But equally we stand ready if it does happen.

“In preparing for No Deal, we can ensure that the government has the necessary resources at its disposal to meet the impact of Brexit, while keeping our public finances on the credible and sustainable path they have been on since 2011.

“Our responsible management of the public finances means that we will meet the challenge of a No-Deal Brexit from a position of strength.

“This year we have eliminated the deficit and are projecting a surplus of 0.2% of GDP. In the event that the UK leaves the EU with an agreement, we will continue to build on this surplus. And in the event of a No Deal, we will intervene in a sustained and meaningful way.”

Donohoe said the €1.2bn No-Deal package would come in two parts. “The first part I am making approximately €200 million in Brexit expenditure available next year.”

“It will be borrowed money. If we do not need it, we will not borrow it. If No Deal does not happen, it will not be borrowed for other purposes.

He went on: “€650m will be made available to support agriculture and tourism and those most affected regions. Of this, €220m will be deployed immediately in the event of a No Deal.

“Make no mistake, No Deal will be challenging. But it is a challenge Ireland has the measure of.”

The National:

Cyprus buys drones amid drilling row

THE government of Cyprus has purchased four drones from Israel amid growing tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean over Turkey’s continuation of drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot-claimed waters.

EU President Donald Tusk has called the Turkish action “illegal” and put the foursquare behind one of its smallest members in Cyprus’s dispute with its giant neighbour.

The Turkish ship Yavuz was scheduled to begin drilling for oil and gas southwest of Cyprus yesterday according to Turkey’s energy minister Fatih Donmez.

Cypriot authorities have already awarded exploration rights to Italian and French companies and the matter is now threatening to become a full-scale row between Turkey and the EU with Cyprus accusing Turkey of a “severe escalation” of infringements of its sovereign rights.

Turkish ships have already drilled wells to the east and west of Cyprus, resulting in strong protests from both the government in Nicosia and the EU.

News of the purchase of drones to monitor activity off the coast of Cyprus was broken by Kathimerini Cyprus, which claimed the Cypriot government had paid 12 million euros for the pilotless aircrafts.

Kathimerini said the drones will help Nicosia more effectively monitor its exclusive economic zone from the air where international energy companies are searching for natural gas, a strategy Turkey is opposed to as it has claims in the region.

Made by Israeli firm Aeronautics, the drones are the “most efficient and cost-effective systems of its class,” according to the company’s website.

The website added: “It has logged over 250,000 operational flight hours flying missions worldwide. The performance and reliability of this combat-proven system are unprecedented.”

The National:

Poll reveals Icelandic island is the world’s best

THE tiny island of Flatey in Breidafjordur fjord, West Iceland, has been named the best island in the world, according to the global travel website

Its remoteness and unspoilt spectacular beauty among an archipelago of 40-plus islands makes Flatey irresistible to island-hoppers, with bigseventravel saying: “Have you ever visited some of the islands around Iceland? Flatey is one of them, and can now claim fame as top spot among the best islands in the world.

“There’s beautifully kept old houses dotted along the island, but just two families stay here throughout the winter.

“In a charming way, it feels very much like a movie set. And so it is. Many movies are set on the island, most notably The Honour of the House based on a short story by Nobel Prize winner Halldor Laxness. The tranquility at this island is unique – time stands still.”

Flatey is just 2km long and about 1km wide. It has no big hills and consists entirely of flat land – its name means “flat island” in Icelandic.

Ranking second on the list of the 50 best islands is El Nido, a group of 45 islands off the tip of Palawan in the Philippines, followed by Espiritu Santo, the largest of the 83 islands of Vanuatu in the South Pacific Ocean.

In fourth place is Sommaroy, Norway, followed by Kocula island in Croatia and the Aran Islands of Ireland.

The top Scottish island, in 23rd place, is Colonsay which bigseventravel calls “the ideal destination for anyone seeking to get away from it all.

“There’s unspoilt sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs and an amazing variety of flora and fauna.”